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By Mitchell Broughton
New Market rallies in the late innings to come back from a 5-1 deficit to beat the Grottoes Cardinals 10-5, taking a one-game lead in a best of five semifinals series.
Two former minor league pitchers took the mound Sunday evening. Colton Harlow, previously in the farm system for Colorado Rockies got the start for New Market while Austin Nicely, a former farm system player for the Houston Astros, started for Grottoes. Both pitchers were dominant early on. Harlow struckout eight and gave up six hits and two runs in five innings for the Shockers — his best outing of the summer by far. Nicely, who didn’t give up an earned run during the entirety of the regular season, somehow one-upped Harlow in his outing. Nicely struck out nine and gave up only two hits and one run in five full innings as well. If both arms were able to go the distance, there would be no way that 15 total runs would score.
I was fortunate enough to join the broadcast on WSVA, and before the game Woodstock River Bandits’ head coach Mike Bocock claimed that the key to this game, and ultimately the entire series would be the bullpens for both squads. Last night, he could not have been more correct. Once Harlow and Nicely got relieved, it was a completely different ball game.
Kirk Messick took over on the mound for the second-seeded Shockers and threw three solid innings for New Market. He only recorded one strikeout, but the longtime lefty did his job limiting the lethal Cardinals batting order to four hits and three runs. It was a different story for Grottoes. Brennan Abbott took the ball from Nicely and struggled to get into a rhythm. Only lasting a little over two innings, Abbot let up four hits, gave up six walks, and allowed six runs to score which gave up the Cardinals’ lead late in the ball game.
The one play that changed the game was a costly error by Grottoes shortstop Tristan Shoemaker in the bottom of the eighth. With bases loaded and two outs on the board, Nick Goode hit a grounder to short for what should have been a routine 6-3 inning-ending out. Unfortunately Shoemaker airmailed the throw well over the first baseman’s glove, allowing two more runs to score. The next batter up, Grant Thompson would single to center field, scoring two more runs for New Market, increasing their lead to 10-5. One throw ultimately resulted in four unnecessary runs.
Seven Shockers recorded a hit in last night’s contest, but only two came off of Austin Nicely’s pitches. Haden Madagan got the offense going in the second inning when he tripled to deep left center field and scored after a Ty Bennet single the next at-bat. Bennett finished the game with two hits and two runs scored himself. Matt Moon also had a two-run single in New Market’s big eight inning run.
Grottoes actually had a better night at the plate, outhitting New Market 12-8 last night. All-RCBL catcher Dylan Nicely had two RBI doubles in back to back plate appearances for the Cardinals, resulting in three runs scored. Austin Nicely and Tristan Shoemaker each had two hits and a run batted in as well.
The next game of the series will take place tonight at Shifflett Field down in Grottoes. From the looks of it, this series is going to be exciting and could very well go to a deciding game five. New Market takes the early advantage in the series.
FINAL: New Market 10 Grottoes 5. Win: Kirk Messick (2-0). Loss: Brennan Abbott (0-1).
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